Cicadas Are Here — But Should They Be Eaten?


Montclair State University assistant professor of anthropology Cortni Borgerson began working on her Ph.D in Madagascar. The 36-year-old mother of two is now living in Montclair and teaching and studying all about sustainable food sources — which apparently includes bugs.

Insects, Borgerson says, are “twice as rich in protein as beef,” and unlike cattle, lamb and pigs, they don’t negatively impact the environment. And because it’s finally cicada season in the Northeast, Borgerson is preparing and serving the three-inch-long, red-eyed bug to friends, family — and to the food editor of The Record and!

She is hoping that eating bugs is going to be a normal occurrence for us in the future. It is for more than 2 billion people across the world (ants in China, grasshoppers in Mexico, bee larvae in Vietnam, beetles in the Amazon, crickets in Cambodia and Thailand).

In New Jersey, Brood X cicadas more plentiful in the south due to more trees and less pesticide use. Borgerson foraged for some in Princeton, where the cicadas are busy shedding their skin, unfurling their wings, toughening their new skin and looking for a mate.

The deafening noise cicadas make is the mating call of the males (they die soon after).

She looked for cicadas in their teneral stage, that is, right after they shed into their adult form and are still pale white. She picked them off the trees and gently plopped them into plastic containers. Back home, she quickly froze them. “They’ll last in the freezer for two weeks,” she said. “You shouldn’t leave them out — they’ll spoil, like leaving lobster on the counter.”

She opened two stainless steel containers to reveal a bunch of tiny cooked bugs lying on paper towels. One contained cicadas that had been quickly fried after marinating in gluten-free tamari, lime juice and a few drops of sriracha (“I love things spicy,” she said). The other contained cicadas that had been quickly cooked in shallow water as is.

“We will see a big boom in insect eating in the near future,” Borgerson predicted, likening its potential rise to that of plant-based burgers. “It’s coming,” she said. “When I can find bugs in the refrigerated aisle of my supermarket, I’ll know we’ve made it.”

Did I squeamishly bolt for the door? No way: I couldn’t wait to pop one in my mouth.

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